Cognitive abilities differ between males and females and these differences are present from childhood. In broad terms, girls have stronger verbal skills than boys who tend to have stronger skills related to spatial ability (Linn and Petersen 1985). It is thought that the actions of sex hormones have a role in these differences. Reviewing different cognitive strengths of male versus female humans is not within the scope of this article but the idea that cognition could be altered by testosterone deserves attention.
Testosterone boosters are a class of herbal supplements aimed at naturally increasing your testosterone levels. Usually, they contain micronutrients that men are commonly deficient in, such as zinc, and which have been connected in research to healthy testosterone levels. They also may contain adaptogens, which are a class of supplement that are thought to help the body adapt to stress, or ingredients which have been connected to improved sleep. Sleep restriction has been shown to reduce testosterone in healthy young men, and as Chris Lockwood, Ph.D., notes, disturbed sleep is a common symptom of low T-levels.
Changes in body composition are seen with aging. In general terms, aging males are prone to loss of muscle mass and a gain in fat mass, especially in the form of visceral or central fat. An epidemiological study of community dwelling men aged between 24 and 85 years has confirmed that total and free testosterone levels are inversely correlated with waist circumference and that testosterone levels are specifically related to this measure of central obesity rather than general obesity (Svartberg, von Muhlen, Sundsfjord et al 2004). Prospective studies show that testosterone levels predict future development of central obesity (Khaw and Barrett-Connor 1992; Tsai et al 2000). Reductions in free testosterone also correlate with age related declines in fat free mass (muscle mass) and muscle strength (Baumgartner et al 1999; Roy et al 2002). Studies in hypogonadal men confirm an increase in fat mass and decrease in fat free mass versus comparable eugonadal men (Katznelson et al 1998). Taken together, the epidemiological data suggest that a hypogonadal state promotes loss of muscle mass and a gain in fat mass, particularly visceral fat and therefore mimics the changes of ‘normal’ aging.
Testosterone is used as a medication for the treatment of males with too little or no natural testosterone production, certain forms of breast cancer, and gender dysphoria in transgender men. This is known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which maintains serum testosterone levels in the normal range. Decline of testosterone production with age has led to interest in androgen replacement therapy. It is unclear if the use of testosterone for low levels due to aging is beneficial or harmful.
Erectile dysfunction is a common finding in the aging male. A prevalence of over 70% was found in men older than 70 in a recent cross-sectional study (Ponholzer et al 2005). Treatment with phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors is proven to be effective for the majority of men but some do not respond (Shabsigh and Anastasiadis 2003). The condition is multi-factorial, with contributions from emotional, vascular, neurological and pharmacological factors. The concept of erectile dysfunction as a vascular disease is particularly interesting in view of the evidence presented above, linking testosterone to atherosclerosis and describing its action as a vasodilator.
Two of the immediate metabolites of testosterone, 5α-DHT and estradiol, are biologically important and can be formed both in the liver and in extrahepatic tissues. Approximately 5 to 7% of testosterone is converted by 5α-reductase into 5α-DHT, with circulating levels of 5α-DHT about 10% of those of testosterone, and approximately 0.3% of testosterone is converted into estradiol by aromatase. 5α-Reductase is highly expressed in the male reproductive organs (including the prostate gland, seminal vesicles, and epididymides), skin, hair follicles, and brain and aromatase is highly expressed in adipose tissue, bone, and the brain. As much as 90% of testosterone is converted into 5α-DHT in so-called androgenic tissues with high 5α-reductase expression, and due to the several-fold greater potency of 5α-DHT as an AR agonist relative to testosterone, it has been estimated that the effects of testosterone are potentiated 2- to 3-fold in such tissues.
Grape seed extract is another ingredient with not enough research to suggest a dosage. Grape seed extract can interact with drugs like “blood thinners, NSAID painkillers (like aspirin, Advil, and Aleve), certain heart medicines, cancer treatments, and others.” If this sounds like you (or if you ever pop an Advil to clear off a headache), you’ll need to speak with a doctor to make sure this supplement is safe to take.
A sedentary lifestyle is another scourge for modern civilization. And this is a serious danger for men. After all, if physical activity is minimal, the testosterone levels will decrease steadily. And in this situation, strength training exercises are a proven method for raising testosterone. Thus, sports exercises always helped raise the levels of male sex hormone. As a result, the testosterone levels elevate after every workout.
Every vitamin, mineral, and ingredient that affects the human body can be taken in enough quantities that they are harmful, or toxic, even the ones that — at lower levels — are beneficial or necessary. Unfortunately, testosterone boosters contain a lot of ingredients that are not well understood. This means in addition to not being able to confirm whether certain ingredients increase testosterone, the scientific and medical communities also don’t know at what levels many ingredients become toxic. On the up side, you might need to eat several pounds of a particular leafy plant before it becomes harmful. On the down side, it could be significantly less that pushes you over your body’s limit. We simply don’t know how little or how much the human body can tolerate. We recommend keeping your doctor in the loop when you add any supplement with unproven ingredients into your diet — they’ll be able to help you find and track any undesired side-effects that these ingredients might cause.
One study looking at alcohol consumption found that increasing alcohol consumption led to a higher level of free & total testosterone compared to a non-drinking control group (20). Drinking did however lower SHBG testosterone levels, though this type of testosterone is bound to a protein meaning our bodies cannot use it to build muscle or increase our mood.
Trials of testosterone treatment in men with type 2 diabetes have also taken place. A recent randomized controlled crossover trial assessed the effects of intramuscular testosterone replacement to achieve levels within the physiological range, compared with placebo injections in 24 men with diabetes, hypogonadism and a mean age of 64 years (Kapoor et al 2006). Ten of these men were insulin treated. Testosterone treatment led to a significant reduction in glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C) and fasting glucose compared to placebo. Testosterone also produced a significant reduction in insulin resistance, measured by the homeostatic model assessment (HOMA), in the fourteen non-insulin treated patients. It is not possible to measure insulin resistance in patients treated with insulin but five out of ten of these patients had a reduction of insulin dose during the study. Other significant changes during testosterone treatment in this trial were reduced total cholesterol, waist circumference and waist-hip ratio. Similarly, a placebo-controlled but non-blinded trial in 24 men with visceral obesity, diabetes, hypogonadism and mean age 57 years found that three months of oral testosterone treatment led to significant reductions in HbA1C, fasting glucose, post-prandial glucose, weight, fat mass and waist-hip ratio (Boyanov et al 2003). In contrast, an uncontrolled study of 150 mg intramuscular testosterone given to 10 patients, average age 64 years, with diabetes and hypogonadism found no significant change in diabetes control, fasting glucose or insulin levels (Corrales et al 2004). Another uncontrolled study showed no beneficial effect of testosterone treatment on insulin resistance, measured by HOMA and ‘minimal model’ of area under acute insulin response curves, in 11 patients with type 2 diabetes aged between 33 and 73 years (Lee et al 2005). Body mass index was within the normal range in this population and there was no change in waist-hip ratio or weight during testosterone treatment. Baseline testosterone levels were in the low-normal range and patients received a relatively small dose of 100 mg intramuscular testosterone every three weeks. A good increase in testosterone levels during the trial is described but it is not stated at which time during the three week cycle the testosterone levels were tested, so the lack of response could reflect an insufficient overall testosterone dose in the trial period.
Testosterone is necessary for normal sperm development. It activates genes in Sertoli cells, which promote differentiation of spermatogonia. It regulates acute HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis) response under dominance challenge. Androgen including testosterone enhances muscle growth. Testosterone also regulates the population of thromboxane A2 receptors on megakaryocytes and platelets and hence platelet aggregation in humans.
We should probably start with the elephant in the room: do these supplements increase testosterone? The answer is probably yes. There are some ingredients that help convince your body to produce more testosterone, but there’s a catch. Testosterone boosters aren’t actually great at boosting; that is, at pushing your testosterone levels above your healthy, normal balance. Boosters typically act more like restorers — helping bring low testosterone levels back to that healthy equilibrium rather than boosting you above normal testosterone levels. Just like how if you have anemia, taking a vitamin B12 supplement can help restore your energy and reduce fatigue, but if your B12 levels are good, a supplement won’t give you super energy levels to stay awake for three days — your body will likely just process (read: pee) out the extra.
When Solvay Pharmaceuticals, maker of market-dominating Androgel, launched its "Low T" campaign, in 2008, it claimed that 13 million American men over age 45 suffered from low testosterone, 90 percent of them undiagnosed. Its website, IsItLowT.com, showed dumpy, depressed men and their unhappy spouses remembering how it "used to be." Why settle for dumpiness and depression, the website and related TV ads suggested, when a little dab'll do you?
Testosterone levels generally peak during adolescence and early adulthood. As you get older, your testosterone level gradually declines — typically about 1 percent a year after age 30 or 40. It is important to determine in older men if a low testosterone level is simply due to the decline of normal aging or if it is due to a disease (hypogonadism).